Have you heard of K-pop? Short for Korean pop music, K-pop is a genre of music originating from South Korea.
The term K-pop encompasses every genre of music that is popular in South Korea but is usually used globally to describe the modern form of South Korean pop music, mostly dance-pop, pop ballad, electronic, rock, hip-hop, and R&B.
Within the last decade, K-pop has become a global success. Virtually everyone across the globe knows at least some aspect of K-pop.
In the United States, “Gangnam Style” by Psy was a huge hit in 2012. The dance featured in the music video became a viral sensation, and the music video itself became the first YouTube video to ever hit 1 billion views. “Gangnam Style” was one of the first globally popular K-pop songs, and in 2012, it was the only song of its kind on the music charts.
Fast forward to 2018, and K-pop has become a huge part of the U.S. music charts, and music charts all over the world. This is mostly thanks to BTS, a seven-member boy group from Seoul who have become a viral sensation.
In the U.S., BTS became the first K-pop act to spend more than 27 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart. They also made their American TV debut, wowing audiences with extremely entertaining performances. After their initial success, BTS began collaborating with American musicians such as Steve Aoki and Nicki Minaj, which expanded their popularity in the U.S.
The success of BTS has allowed more K-pop artists to reach global music charts. Many of the successful acts are boy or girl groups that are similar to BTS. Boy groups such as NCT 127, Got7, EXO and MONSTA X all had very successful American debuts last year. Blackpink, Red Velvet, and TWICE are girl groups that have also charted in the U.S. in 2018.
The success of these groups can be attributed to the way they are formed. In K-pop, it is normal for groups to be formed by record labels through a training process. People who want to be idols (a term used to describe K-pop stars) audition for different record labels. If they are chosen, they train with the record label, learning how to dance and sing, as well as be groomed to be the perfect K-pop star. Once the record label thinks the person is ready, they will put the person in a group with more of the label’s trainees.
This process makes groups like Got7 and Red Velvet successful because the training makes the performance almost identical, something that is unique compared to musical acts from the rest of the world.
Another aspect that makes K-pop unique and successful is the visuals, which refers to music videos, dances, performances, fashion, and many more aesthetic aspects of their act as a whole.
Most K-pop artists put a lot of effort and money into things like their music videos and performances in order to make them unique and interesting. For instance, Stray Kids, a boy group from Seoul, released a song called “Get Cool” in November. In the music video, the group is dressed in very dorky clothing and the performers are filmed in a school setting. They have been getting a lot of attention for these visuals because while they are not typical of the style, they are aesthetically pleasing, which is not a common occurrence in K-pop.
On the flip side, a group like BTS usually takes a more serious approach with their visuals, demonstrated in their song “Blood Sweat & Tears.” This song’s music video is full of Renaissance artwork, and the group performs in very formal wear. These visuals got a lot of attention because of the grand aesthetic involved.
If you want to start listening to K-pop, here are a few songs to try:
• “Lullaby” by Got7
• “Yes or Yes” by TWICE
• “Regular” by NCT 127
• “DDU DU DDU DU” by BlackPink
• “Love Yourself” by BTS
• “Bad Boy” by Red Velvet
• “Get Cool” by Stray Kids
• “Ko Ko Bop” by EXO
With unique aspects like the training and the attention to visuals, it is easy to see why K-pop is becoming a global phenomenon. With this introduction into the world of K-pop, maybe you will be more likely to get involved with the phenomenon.
Quinn Michaels is a senior at Bonneville High School. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.